Archive for December, 2013

The secret decoder ring guide to ALA dues

Monday, December 30th, 2013

I am reliably informed that there are people claiming that they have no idea how expensive ALA dues are. (That’s the American Library Association, if you weren’t aware.)

As a bit of continuing education, I am here offering the secret decoder ring guide to finding out the cost of ALA dues:

1. Choose a web search engine. I tried Bing, Google, Blekko, DuckDuckGo and StartPage.

2. Type the highly classified supersecret search string:

ala dues

You don’t need to put quotes around it, although it won’t hurt.

3. Hit Enter or click on whatever the search icon is.

If you chose DuckDuckGo or StartPage, you may have some odd ads at the top, but–at least for me, at least today–every single search engine yielded the same page as the first non-ad result.

This page, in case choosing a search engine, typing eight characters and hitting Enter is entirely too confusing.

That page has links for the types of membership (personal, organizational, divisional).

Clicking on one of the links brings up a page (or part of a page) with, gasp, the cost of dues.

Or, if clicking seems too complicated, you can scroll down that same page and see the cost of dues.

I know this is pretty advanced stuff, but I suspect you can figure it out.

There will not be a quiz.

Making Book S8: The Liblog Landscape, 2007-2010

Monday, December 30th, 2013

I should have known better.

After the stunning sales of the previous Liblog Landscape books, I should have just let it be.

Instead, I did a comprehensive study: every English-language liblog that was discoverable on the web in mid-2010. Thirteen hundred and four of them. Plus another thirteen hundred and twentyseven “things” that I looked at, but didn’t qualify in the end, including 306 that had disappeared entirely or now required passwords to read, 118 that had been renamed (and are actually part of the 1,304), a dozen begun later than May 31, 2010, and things that either aren’t blogs at all or are blogs that appeared in liblog blogrolls but weren’t liblogs.

On the other hand, while amassing information on an absurdly broad range of liblogs, I didn’t get too crazy: I didn’t write profiles for individual blogs. I didn’t attempt to break down blogs by blogger affiliation. And, gulp, I did determine a lot of stuff about each liblog (with the percentage of blogs for which I got the information in parentheses):

  • Country in which the blogger resided when the blog was checked (for 93% of the blogs)
  • Blog software used, if one of seven possibilities (96%)
  • Google Page Rank—I don’t seem to have a way to get this any more, but could back then (81%)
  • Year and month of the first post I could locate (100%)
  • Longevity of the blog in months through May 31, 2010. (100%)
  • Currency: how current the most recent post was as of May 31, 2010 (99+%)
  • Total posts through May 31, 2010 where it was plausible to get that figure (91%)
  • Count, length, and comments for each of four three-month periods (March-May 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)—I wasn’t stupid enough to try to capture all the posts, but did some pretty large samples. Blogs with countable posts—which, of course, also requires that the blog existed during that period—range from 52% (2007: 36% were younger) to 67% (2009). For those blogs with countable posts, ones for which length could be calculated ranged from 87% (736 blogs in 2010) to 92% (746 blogs in 2008). Blogs with posts that had countable comments ranged from 72% in 2010 to 81% in 2007.

I also divided blogs into three types—book and other reviews, technology, and everything else—and four groups based on Google Page Rank and level of posting during March-May 2010. There were 115 review blogs, 405 mostly-technology blogs and 784 others. Groups included 443 “core blogs,” 207 “less active visible blogs,” 364 “also alive” blogs and 290 “mostly defunct” blogs.

The 237-page book didn’t profile any liblogs (I was going to do that piecemeal as copies were sold, but gave up after sales were too slow to justify the effort), but had loads of tables and graphs on various aspects of measured performance and characteristics, with lists of the standout blogs in each area.

I dunno. It might have made a good thesis. Looking at the book now—my own copy is, I believe, one of eleven total copies—makes me tired just thinking about the hundreds of hours of work that went into this. The library field collectively didn’t even yawn, and maybe that was appropriate. I honestly believed that these books were worthwhile for library schools, and if I’d sold 45 copies of this one, I’d have been delighted. That didn’t happen.

Here’s what I find doing a quick revenue report from Lulu since 2008, looking only at the Liblog books and ignoring a handful of copies of one of them that might have sold via CreateSpace:

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: 54 copies

But Still They Blog: 24 copies

The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010: 11 copies

Chapters 2 and 3 appeared in Cites & Insights. Had there been visible sales, more chapters would have appeared there.

I have to admit: the research projects I’ve done since then have been considerably more substantial, if sometimes not as much fun.

After this series, I stopped doing self-published books for a while…or at least writing self-published books. That was a sensible move.

Crawford, Walt. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2010 (pbk.)

Making Book S7: Open Access and Libraries

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Here’s a book I haven’t made much of anything from—and that’s OK.

I first wrote about open access—before it was called that—in May 2001. By the end of 2009, I’d concluded that I was no longer able to add value to OA-related discussions, a decision that I’ve since reversed, for better or for worse.

Since I’d written a lot about OA during that time—including a disContent column on the topic—I thought there might be some value to offering it all in one package.

Thus this book. Thirty-three essays, 513 6″ x 9″ pages. Most of the essays are reasonably brief—but not the last one (70 pages). The essays appear in chronological order because I wasn’t revising them, just reprinting them. I’d intended to index personal names and journals, but in the end I gave up on that idea: It was too much work for literally zero reward. (I tried using “index all” but had the mistake of having one or more indexed words in essay names, which were chapter headings. The result was a complete mess. My bad.)

I published the PDF as a zero-cost ebook; the paperback version is basically priced at production cost (not quite: I actually make something like $1.50 from each print copy sold. So far, I don’t think I’ve earned enough for one lunch at my favorite inexpensive Chinese restaurant). It’s still available. It is the first Cites & Insights Reader, although it doesn’t carry that name. The cover is one of the few relevant designs I’ve done, but also a very easy one to create.

As of now, some 19 copies have been acquired, most of them (but not all) the free PDF.

Since changing my mind on “no more OA for me” in December 2012, I’ve published a fair amount on the topic—and I’ve just finished retagging some 250 items tagged as “OA” into subsets (and reducing the number along the way), so it’s fair to assume there will be more to come. There’s already been enough for a less massive Volume 2, if I was inclined to do that. So far, I’m not.

Here’s a link to the $17.50 paperback; here’s one to the free PDF ebook. The contents of the book carry a CC BY-NC license; as far as I’m concerned, the PDF can be legitimately redistributed.

Note that this one doesn’t show up in my CV because the introduction is the only original material.

Crawford, Walt. Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights, 2001-2009. 2010.

Making Book S6: disContent, The Complete Collection

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

To quote from the preface:

I’m not quite sure how I got started reviewing title CD-ROMs, but that start is directly relevant to the history of “disContent.” I wrote a series of columns in CD-ROM Professional under the title “CD-ROM Amateur” from 1995 and 1996; that became “CD-ROM Corner” in Database in 1996, continuing through 1999. In mid-1999, Database became EContent—but the column continued.

In 2000, it was obvious to all concerned that a column composed primarily of title CD-ROM reviews had run its course, both because it didn’t really fit EContent and because the stream of title CD-ROMs was drying up. I discussed possibilities for the future with Marydee Ojala, then editor of EContent. I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we came up with “disContent,” which replaced “CD-ROM Corner” in 2001.

“disContent” had the same relationship to the rest of EContent as “CD-ROM Amateur” did to the rest of CD-ROM Professional: An outsider’s voice in an industry publication. EContent’s design and editorial staff chose a raised fist as the logo for “disContent”—perhaps more adversarial than I like to be, but it seemed fine to me.

“disContent” was a two-page column in every issue of EContent (11 issues per year) from 2001 through 2003. It changed to a one-page column in 2004—and started appearing in every other issue (typically five times per year) in 2006. It ended at the end of 2009.

The editors at EContent never told me what to write about and did a fine job of improving the manuscripts I sent them. I think there may have been one case where an editor found a column less than satisfactory (I had a substitute handy), but in general I had leeway to write about what I wanted.

I thought quite a few of the 73 columns held up very well in 2010. I’d republished a few of the early ones and, more recently, a couple of later ones in Cites & Insights. 

As is typical for paid magazine writing (as opposed to cough scholarly journal writing cough) the magazine purchased very limited rights–first serial publication with a three-month period of exclusivity, basically. I owned the columns.

I was thinking of doing a selected anthology of the columns most relevant in 2011 and beyond. Somehow, that didn’t happen.

But I also had a brilliant idea: Why not try out the “freemium” idea some pundits have proclaimed as the future of media? Offer something special, distinctive, limited, for people who support what you’re doing, to make it easy for them to pay.

Thus the November 1, 2010 announcement of this book: a 314-page hardcover including a preface, all 73 of the columns (each with a postscript updating or commenting on the column) in chronological order, including a few that I’d just as soon forget, a very limited index, and my autograph, signed as part of the title page. About 88,000 words in total. It cost $50, of which I got about $24. Oh, and I’d only sell it until 100 copies were sold or four months had passed, whichever came first. (I got confused and changed four months to five, not that it made much difference.)

A Brilliant Success

The “freemium” idea succeeded…well…let’s say the response wasn’t overwhelming. Without revealing the actual sales, I’ll say that the total has a single digit and my net revenue had two digits (but high two digits).

In the process of basically failing, I reduced the maximum number of copies to 50, promised that there would not be a selected edition (so I guess there won’t be), and also said I wouldn’t republish more than a quarter of the columns in C&I. And, true to my word, took the book out of print on April 1, 2011.

It’s a beautiful hardcover book with a great paddlewheel picture on the wraparound cover (not the same paddlewheel picture as the 2012 Cites & Insights annual. Including my own copy, five copies were produced. I hope the four buyers enjoy theirs.

Big discount on Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing

Friday, December 20th, 2013

I forgot to post this earlier, but better late than never…especially since the sale runs through January 27:

ITI is selling some of its book titles for 40% off through January 27, 2014. Included in that list is The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing. At 40% off, I think it’s worth buying even for your own use, much less for your library’s use.

More details and the full list of books on sale.

Freedom of speech

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Freedom of speech (in America) means that the government may not prevent you from saying or publishing something in a public space.

Freedom of speech does not mean

  • That you can say anything you want anywhere you want, even on the job or on private property.
  • That there can’t be consequences for what you say.

Freedom of speech is all about prior restraint, not about consequences.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can’t be successfully sued for libel or slander.

Freedom of speech doesn’t in any way prevent your employer from taking action against you because of something you said or wrote.

Freedom of speech sure as hell doesn’t mean that a TV production company can’t penalize you, suspend you or cancel your show because of what you said.

On the other hand: Freedom of speech does mean that absurdly partisan ignorami can spout off as though, if you happen to be one of them, freedom of speech should mean freedom from consequences.

Because freedom of speech does mean the freedom to be wrong and willfully ignorant.

Chances are, you already know this. But sometimes it needs to be said.


Added 12/23/13: It should go without saying, but apparently does not, that freedom of speech does not require a publisher to publish what you have to say (or keep publishing it), or a bookstore (online or physical) to carry a publication or anything of the sort.

Making Book S5: But Still They Blog

Friday, December 20th, 2013

As of November 2009, The Liblog Landscape had sold a grand total of 57 copies. Providing the first half of the book free in Cites & Insights probably didn’t help sell any more.

Ever the slow learner, I tried doing it better—looking at a slightly smaller universe of liblogs in more detail and as more of a narrative. The new book looked at blogs from 2007 through 2009 and included chapters on stopping and pausing and why people blog. In many ways, it’s a better book than the earlier one.

Unfortunately, it sold even fewer copies. By September (the book appeared in December 2009) it had sold fewer than 20 copies. As with the earlier book, it’s no longer available.

Much of the book, excluding blog profiles, appeared as the September/October 2010 Cites & Insights, a massive 60-page issue. Through 2012, it appears that the issue was downloaded more than 2,000 times—relatively low for long-term downloads of an issue, but still more than 100 times as many readers as were willing to pay for the book. (In October-November 2013, the issue’s been downloaded or viewed 64 times.)

Crawford, Walt. But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009. 2010 (pbk.)

Making Book S4. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Remember when blogging was hot?

Remember when a blog by a library person could average more than six comments per post, not including spam?

(Remember when spam didn’t represent 95%–or, in my case, 99%–of the comments in a blog?)

There were a number of “Top XX blogs” pieces in various places in 2004-2006, and the idea of “top” blogs was so entrenched that, when I wrote “Investigating the Biblioblogosphere” in September 2005, looking at 60 liblogs with broad reach, it was referred to using phrases like “Walt Crawford’s Top 50 Blogs,” even though I tried to make it clear that the list was never intended as a “Top 60.” The piece was also very well-read: Some 25,000 downloads and views through the end of 2012.

I devoted almost all of the August 2006 Cites & Insights
to a much broader view of liblogs (I stopped using the pseudo-Germanic term because I thought the first and last parts were both misleading), “Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle.” This time, I looked at more than 550 liblogs, then eliminated the most widely subscribed 90 and least widely subscribed 183 (based on Bloglines subscriptions), leaving 281 that I thought of as “the great middle.” Some further refinement reduced the list to 213 liblogs; I did detailed metrics and individual descriptions for each of those. It’s important to note that the list deliberately excluded what were probably the best-known liblogs.

That essay has also been very well read: in fact, the issue in which it appeared is the most heavily downloaded for the period from 11/1/13 through yesterday, with nearly 2,000 essay views and downloads during that time. It’s also had more than 25,000 total downloads and pageviews, probably significantly more (since I lack figures for January 2013 through October 2013).

Given the early and continuing readership and interest, I thought it might be worth doing a fairly comprehensive look at liblogs over a period of time. The result was too long for C&I, so it became a self-published book (both Amazon/CreateSpace and Lulu, so one edition has an ISBN), The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. It was clear that there were more than 1,000 liblogs in 2008. I added more blogs to those in the first two studies, looking at a couple of lists, most notably including Meredith Farkas’ “Favorite blogs” survey.

My criteria for inclusion in the book were that a blog had to be:

  • In English (or at least predominantly in English)
  • Not clearly defined as an official library blog
  • Somehow related to libraries or librarianship (or by a librarian)
  • Reachable—on the web and not password-protected
  • Established before 2008: At least one post before January 2008
  • Visible: adding up Bloglines subscriptions and Technorati “authority” (remember Technorati?) to get at least 10.
  • Not defunct: At least one post after August 31, 2007 (not consistently applied).

That yielded a universe of 607 liblogs. The book includes detailed metrics (and lists of extreme cases for most metrics) and, for each blog, a very brief profile including metrics, identification and start date.

The book didn’t do terribly and didn’t do well. shows 14 libraries holding the book. It’s a 284-page 6″ x 9″ paperback.

Crawford, Walt. The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008: A Lateral Look. 2008 (pbk.) CreateSpace edition: ISBN 978-1440473845.

Making Book S3. Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples

Monday, December 16th, 2013

The Public Library Blogs book was such a roaring success, I couldn’t help but be inspired to do a similar book covering academic library blogs.

Nah, that’s ridiculous.

On the other hand, I’ve always sensed that I have a much larger readership among academic librarians than among public librarians—which may make sense, given that I always worked for or on behalf of academic libraries, even though my heart may have always been with public libraries. So either I thought this one might do a little better or I was just deluded.

In any case, the methodology was similar to the other book and I included pretty much the same metrics—again, with most of the book consisting of individual profiles. I also made a few comparisons between academic library blogs and public library blogs. E.g.:

  • Academic library blogs had even fewer comments than public library blogs
  • Academic library blogs had more frequent posts than public library blogs, but slightly shorter posts.

The project was interesting. The 279-page 6″ x 9″ paperback reached a few libraries. ( shows 22 libraries holding this book as of December 15, 2013.) The first few chapters appeared in the May 2009 Cites & Insights, with a limited update that November.

Crawford, Walt. Academic Library Blogs: 231 Examples. 2008 (pbk.).

Making Book S2: Public Library Blogs, 252 Examples

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Should your public library have a blog—or more blogs than it already has?

I can’t answer that question. I can say there’s a good chance your library could benefit from one or more blogs.

If anyone tells you that your library must have a blog, they’re wrong. Very few solutions apply to every public library, no matter how large or small.

On the other hand, hundreds of public libraries (serving as few as 400 people and as many as 2.3 million) already use blogs to good effect. I believe thousands of public libraries could serve their communities well by initiating blogs or adding new blogs.

Those are the first four paragraphs of Chapter 1 of Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. Looking at it now, you could substitute “Facebook page” or “Twitter account” or “Pinterest” or… for “blog” and I’d probably sign my name to the statement.

I find it difficult to look back at this book, six years later, and figure out just why I did it—except that I thought some libraries might find it helpful to have “similar” examples and see how blogs had been doing, at least from an external view.

I did not set about finding all the public library blogs; if I was crazy enough to do this one again, I’d probably start with library websites and look for blogs directly. What I did was probably more sensible (but far less inclusive): I took two major lists (one from LISWiki, one from Blogging Libraries), yielding more than 530 links, including—naturally—quite a few duplicates between the two lists. The book explains how I whittled that list down to 209 blogs—then added other blogs from the 196 libraries represented to arrive at the final 252 blogs. (The basic criteria: The blog had to be English-language, beginning no later than December 2006, with at least one post in two of the three months March, April and May 2007, with enough internal evidence to demonstrate meeting those criteria. That last criterion was probably too narrow at the time and would certainly be too narrow in a reexamination.)

The book discusses various metrics—expressed as text descriptions or lists of standout blogs, not tables—and, for some three-quarters of its length, describes each blog and offers sample posts.

This was one book that I published both via Lulu and via CreateSpace, making it available on Amazon (and adding an ISBN). This naturally resulted in huge sales via Amazon may or may not have aided the pitiful sales—and those sales probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. As of December 12, 2013, shows 22 libraries holding one or the other version.

The first quarter of the book appeared in the May 2009 Cites & Insights. A limited update appeared in the September 2009 issue. The Lulu cover is one of my favorites: A photo of the library at Ephesus (which my wife & I visited on a cruise).

Crawford, Walt. Public Library Blogs: 252 Examples. 2007 (pbk). CreateSpace edition: ISBN 9781434805591